Kazakhstan, entry on road from Tashkent to Shymkent, exit to Kyrgyzstan on road from Taraz to Bishkek
Entry into Kazakhstan
- Passenger walks, driver drives. Walking really easy, straightforward and friendly. Fill out one piece of immigration paper, get two stamps on it, and your inside.
- Driver took 45 minutes longer (mainly due to strange car). The usual import process with customs, a number of forms and in the end you have your precious car import document. Compared to Uzbekistan, super friendly people. Kazakhstan is in a custom union with Russia. Therefore it is important to keep the import documents until one leaves Russia again.
- We bought insurance only in Shymkent (and got lucky to not have been checked by police until then). Apparently you can also buy it directly at the border (but I didn't find it right away, and we wanted to get away from that place asap). Nomad insurance in Shymkent: Google Maps (at least three addresses circulate for Nomad in Shymkent; this seems to be the only authentic one.)
- Border to Shymkent: lots of new construction going on for first 60 km. Slow traffic (I remember 40 or so) for 60 (or so) kilometers. Will be shiny new highway soon.
- Shymkent to Taraz: perfect highway except for a short strip that goes through a tiny and desolate village
- Taraz to Kyrgyzstan border: good
- Beautiful landscapes
- Driver drives, passenger walks. Just a stamp for passenger. Super easy and fast.
- For driver also very swift and efficient. No search of the car. Nothing to complain.
Passenger has it easy, same simple immigration process with sheet of paper as before.
Driver also has it a bit more easy, since car was already in their databases. However, they instructed a fully fledged car strip at the special customs control (where they look for drugs by stripping apart the entire car, no mercy). Arriving at the special customs spot, the driver (female) got a tourist and woman bonus and was let go after 20 minutes. Others waited already for 3 hours, with their car disassembled in front of them.
- Border to Almaty: good condition, driving at speed limit always possible.
- Almaty to Balkhash: first 50 km from Almaty in good condition. Then the horror starts. 200 km of aweful road (precisely until the road merges with the one coming from Shu). Our air suspension gives us 18 cm of clearance in highest setting; several times we scratched the road. Potholes so deep and dangerous, a driving mistake can break an axis or a wheel. 4x4 definitely in an advantage (but not fully safe either). After that, driving at speed limit possible.
- Some background info: money (also foreign) was given to modernize the entire road from Karaganda to Almaty. They split up the work in stretches of 200km. For the stretch from the intersection with Shu to Almaty, however, the subcontractor disappeared with all the money. Everyone now reluctant to give money again until that heist has been fully investigated by police (which probably got a fair share of the many millions that were stolen).
- Balkhash to Karaganda, Karaganda to Astana, Astana to Kokshetau, Kokshetau to Petropavl, Petropavl to Russian border: All in decent or good condition. Driving at speed limit possible. After Astana, there's even an awesome toll road highway built by Germans (everyone in Kazakhstan is excited about that). Especially the parts around Kokshetau and Petropavl were renovated recently -- I know of reports that last year there were crazy stretches of bumpy road. Not anymore, I'm happy to report!
Some police checkpoints. All harmless. Most police actually with body cams.
Straightforward and easy, as there's no customs exit (Russia and Kazakhstan are in the same customs union). Stamps, a quick look at the car, no thorough search, and off we go.
Bonus episode: Russia
Aweful entry (they didn't like our Iran visa, which was reason enough for them to have us wait for 40 minutes, then write a lengthy addendum on their computers and ask stupid questions about purpose of journey to Iran and Russia), semi-thorough car search (we had to unpack half of the car). Mood was down a lot. After that, Russia really started to grow on us! This insurance kiosk was awesome (took our dollars and euros, even sold us a working SIM card) Google Maps, and people extremely friendly (especially in everything from Kurgan to Vladimir, and in St Petersburg). Not a single stop at a police checkpoint in all of Russia (we drove over the duration of three weeks from Kurgan to St Petersburg via Moscow). Exit in Narva wasn't exactly fast, but still friendly.
This post is part of a series of postings in this forum. Main overview here: http://caravanistan.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=3647